Mastering the Terminology of ABA: A Guide for Parents

If you are a parent of a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s important that you take the time to learn about applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is an empirically validated treatment for autism. It focuses on teaching functional skills and addressing challenging behaviors that may be impacting your child’s ability to learn and navigate his environment. When you read about ABA, you’re likely to encounter a lot of unfamiliar words and terminologies. Here are some of the terms you may see:  

ABC data 

This is a type of data collection frequently used to identify the possible function of your child’s behavior. In other words, trying to understand the reason why a behavior is taking place and what is maintaining this behavior. A stands for antecedent, or what happens before a behavior. B stands for the behavior itself. C stands for the consequence that follows.  

Comorbidity 

This word refers to an additional condition a person is diagnosed with, in addition to a primary condition. For instance, children with ASD may frequently be diagnosed with epilepsy as well.  

DSM 

DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This manual is widely used around the world to classify mental and developmental disorders.  

Intervention 

This term is simply used to mean any action that is taken to change a particular behavior.  

Mand 

A mand is a volitional request, with the intent of wanting the item. For example, a child saying “ball” because he wants the ball, as opposed to saying “ball” because he sees a ball.  

Prompt 

A prompt is something you provide to a child to help him or her perform a particular behavior. A prompt can come in many different forms and vary in how intrusive they are. They can range from physical prompts to simple indirect verbal prompts.   

Transitions 

This term is used to refer to switching from one activity to another or moving from one setting to another. Challenging behaviors are often observed during transitions, especially when going from a preferred activity to a less preferred activity.  

Inflexibility 

Children with autism may often have a difficult time with an overall change in routine. Some children have very specific routines that in the event of any slight deviation, it may be a cause for an intense meltdown.  

support your child’s current needs.   

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